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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

March date in the Golden State to dump Proposition Hate

Those same-sex couples in California who missed out on getting officially spliced and being able to called it marriage should know soon whether they can do so after all.

You may remember that some evil people with weird ideas and lots of money decided that having two girls or two guys get married was in some way some kind of threat to something or other. They even wanted the 18,000 couples who got married while they legally could in the state to lose that status now that the legality of same-sex marriage has bitten the dust with Proposition 8 – the measure that sought to change the State Constitution to make marriage strictly a man–woman affair.

Now, Pink News tells us that the State Supreme Court has announced that legal challenges to a ballot measure that denied gays the right to marry in California will begin oral arguments on 5 March.

Get ready to rub those hands.

1 comment:

Diesel B said...

The Americans are weird aren't they? The USA is often held up as a bench-mark of all that is progressive, but people confuse the Yanks' technological prowess with a social liberalism, which, where it does exist, is extremely fragile and always under pressure. True, they have some important freedoms enshrined in the 18th Century constitution they're so proud of, but quite often, these freedoms aren't worth the parchment they're written on. It's progressive intent was flawed from the start - think of slavery and the right to bear arms - the legacy of which still haunts America today.

In Europe, quite a few states, including the UK, have adopted a form of gay marriage, which is now part of the social landscape that provokes little comment (outside of religious circles). Most western Europeans, once you explain that gay marriage is more to do with equal access to pensions, inheritance law and the recognition of next-of-kin, can see the innate justice of this, even if they disapprove of homosexuality itself.

Sadly, too many of our former colonial cousins across the pond remain wedded to the primitive religious baggage they took with them when they departed these shores. The waves of subsequent immigration into the US only added to this sediment of toxic religious primitivism that seeps into their social and political life at all levels.

The Americans are justifiably proud of their democracy, but the way that it operates leaves gay rights vulnerable, particularly at grass roots level. In the 1970s, extreme Christians were able to use the Proposition system to ban gay teachers - and even those who supported them - from schools in several states. The hotly contested Proposition 6 in California tried to do the same, but was defeated after a skilful campaign by gay activists, including, of course, Harvey Milk.

America's simplistic system of local democracy (populism might be a better word for it), allows powerful Christian groups to pander to popular prejudices and stir up anti-gay feeling amongst primitive white trash and poor unsophisticated ethnics alike. It is an outrage that the rights of gay people should be held hostage by Church-mobilised populist bigotry in this way. It seems that the anti-gay Proposition 8 campaign was largely funded by wealthy Mormons in neighbouring states.

President Obama has delighted gay activists and shocked the fundamentalist Christians by making his personal commitment to the rights of gay people plain. However, call me a cynic, but it's likely that he'll prove to be "all gong and no dinner" in this respect. He studiously avoided the gay elephant in the room during his inaugural speech and too many of his own supporters would be hostile to any translation of that commitment on to the statute books. Like Clinton, he will fudge the gay issue and may even make things worse as a result.

Sorry to be so pessimistic, but in the light of recent events (i.e. America's continued attempts to bully the British courts and media into silence over the torture issue), it's important that we maintain a healthy scepticism where Obama's windy and self-aggrandising rhetoric is concerned. For all his faults, at least President Bush gave us all a good laugh from time to time.

It's ironic how the old and supposedly "oppressive" states of western Europe have nearly all enacted gay rights at a gallop - within just a couple of decades in most cases - while in the "Land of the Free", progress is still positively glacial! Let's be glad our ancestors had the good sense to stay behind.